Well, aren't we all glad that's over?
January is a vast, dark chasm of sadness. A canyon of broken promises. A dumpster filled to the brim with invasive marketing ploys and below-par alcohol substitutes and The Body Coach shouting low-cal recipes at me through Instagram. In January, there is nowhere to go – literally. At work, we spend all morning wondering whether to go out on a lunch break and get caught up in an artic wind with no place to wander to and nothing to buy, or sit at our desk and risk being asked a work question while we’re trying to eat bland homemade soup. This is January. And it is awful.
As far as marketing is concerned, January is a time for new beginnings. Particularly for millennials, it feels like there’s a certain pressure for us to give up our bad habits and be somebody different – somebody better. The concept of January as we know it is made for the kind of people that think running a marathon makes them fun; it’s an opportunity for fitness brands and kombucha brewers to pounce on our weaknesses and turn them into cash.
And as of the last few Januarys, it’s also a time to become vegan. Veganuary started five years ago, and since then the number of people willing to try it has more than doubled each year. In fact, this year, more than 250,000 in 193 countries signed up to give it a go.
I don’t have much of an issue with veganism – I understand it, really, and I applaud those people for resisting the urge to eat cheese, which is an area where I have a complete lack of control. It’s more the word Veganuary, and how many times I have heard it this month. And as any vegan will tell you, veganism is for life, not just for January. Are people dipping their toe out of curiosity? Or are they trying to make a genuine change? It’s this question that makes me so intrigued by Dry January.
I don’t really tend to drink in January, but I don’t practice Dry January. I’m not a huge drinker anyway – the fear of a hangover that feels like my brain is being wrung out like a dirty sponge that can’t be cleaned is enough put me off. (Not to mention all the drunk texts I send – once I sent one to my boyfriend that just said, “I THINK ABOUT YOU ALL THE TIME” and he won’t let me forget about it.) But even the ritual of drinking at least one glass of prosecco a day over Christmas was enough to give me heartburn way into the midpoint of January, and I think I should start 2019 without my body giving up on me. I’m not strict with it, though.
If I want a wine, then I’ll have one. Because I believe that in most cases, cutting out alcohol is only beneficial if something happens after it – if you go out on a bender to celebrate finishing Dry January, then what was the point in the first place? Yes, you can do it, but so what? Perhaps it was all an attempt to cleanse your boozy palette, or maybe it was an exercise in self-restraint, but that doesn’t mean much when there a complete lack of it come February. Drinking should be about balance to start with.
The thing I was most excited to give up in January was seeing anyone and doing anything. It was very successful, thank you very much. I know I’m a millennial cliché, but it’s too cold to do anything in the new year. I can forgive December for being chilly because at least it offers something in return: it may be nearing zero degrees but here, have a week off to spend with your family and here, eat this whole panettone to yourself, guilt-free. What does January offer? Nothing. It does nothing but try and make me feel bad about who I am and the life choices I have made.
And my rule of doing nothing extends to not going to the gym, too. (It’s on purpose, I swear.) My 21-year-old self would be turning in her unmade bed if she heard me say this, but I actually don’t mind exercising. The gym in January, however, is an entirely different beast. It is full of people who have made it to the 15th January without giving up and are feeling very smug about it. They’re there every morning, using the cross trainer incorrectly. Texting on the leg press. Swimming next to each other to chat in the fast lane of the pool. Me? I say ignore January, because it is a quitter’s month.
Research says Brits waste around £558 million a year on unused gym memberships, with more than one in 10 saying they haven’t stepped foot inside a gym for a whole year. I’d be willing to wager these are majority January sign-ups. I mean, I can’t really talk. I totally get quitting. In fact, quitting is the only thing I have kept up consistently over my lifetime. In the past, I have quit the following things because I haven’t seen results in the first few weeks:
- Dance classes
- Drama school
- Make-up tutorials
And the gym – multiple times, in fact. The time that stuck – the time where I started getting serious about exercising – was when I started around mid-February, free from January’s intense gaze. And of course, the running machine has separated the wheat from the chaff by that point – new January members will be curled up at home with sore limbs, insisting they’ll “go tomorrow”.
So, here’s my suggestion. Don’t burden yourself with the feeling you must be someone new come January. Change takes time. So in what has officially been deemed the most depressing month of the year, treat yourself kindly. Have a G&T. Eat that bagel. And then eat another one. January is not a life fixer – if anything it is a flimsy plaster, the kind that comes off in the shower. It is the chance for companies to make money from your optimism. Instead of focusing on improvement, do what makes you feel good and cut yourself some slack.